Access to Government Information
MLA Statement on Open Access
The Medical Library Association (MLA) supports both the concept of open access to information generated from federally funded scientific and medical research and current copyright law, and maintains that having access to timely, relevant, and accurate information is vital to the health of our nation and its education and research programs.
MLA has always advocated that information generated by public funds is a vital national resource. People need access to such information to fully exercise their rights as citizens. Therefore, all available government information should be equally accessible to all Americans. Because government information is generated with public funds, it must be disseminated to the public with as few barriers as possible. Sole reliance on the market place may not be the best way to disseminate government information.
For these reasons, MLA supports the principles and concepts espoused by Representative Martin Sabo (D-5th, MN) and organizations such as the Public Library of Science (PLOS), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Budapest Open Access Initiative to address the issue of open access. We recognize that this is a time of rapid change in our society where the availability of digital resources in a networked environment provides unprecedented opportunities for more open access to the scientific literature. However, the complexities of the issues surrounding these initiatives may result in unforeseen and far-reaching impacts on the biomedical community. We believe that further study and discussion by all key stakeholders, including members of the library community, need to take place before embracing specific alternatives to the current scholarly publishing model.
The library profession, in partnership with biomedical societies, institutions, and publishers, should review existing and proposed programs that would serve as models for this changing information paradigm and further the goals of providing ready and timely access to scientific and medical knowledge. One current successful model is the role that the National Library of Medicine (NLM) plays in disseminating medical research information for free to the public through MEDLINEplus, PubMed Central, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Similar models in the commercial and non-profit sectors must be examined as well.
MLA recognizes that new opportunities bring challenges that require closer examination of the process by which open access would function within the current copyright law. Copyright and public access are different entities, but not mutually exclusive. By studying the issues, it may be possible to develop new models, such as the one offered by Creative Commons, where both can co-exist while advancing access to information.
MLA supports the need to develop business models that support open access, maintain the integrity of information generated by research, and preserve that information for future generations. Groups such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, Creative Commons, and BioOne, are addressing these issues.
MLA believes that current study and discussion of the issue of open access are timely and relevant, and encourages members of the medical library community along with all other stakeholders in the scholarly communications process to seek opportunities to become involved in these discussions.
The MLA scholarly publishing website provides information about this issue and links to several scholarly publishing and open access initiatives.
For more information, contact Mary Langman, 312.419.9094 x27.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2009 March 11